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A Digital Audit Could Do You Good

In a digitally-driven world, data can be a powerful enabler – but it also means that organisations are needing to up their game when it comes to data management not just in a compliance, regulatory, sales sense, but from a reputational point of view too.

How geared up, for instance, is your organisation to manage a crisis situation that can escalate within seconds via online platforms? And how secure is the digital footprint of your CEO, staff and clients? A fresh look at your crisis communications plan and considering a digital audit may well be a sensible idea, save you a lot of grief and help prevent reputational damage in the long-run.

These were amongst the themes thrashed out at the first CIPR International (@CIPR_Int) ‘Global PRactice’ conference in London last month, looking at how the public relations profession is evolving around the world and what we can learn as practitioners from experiences elsewhere.

The proliferation of use of camera phones and mobile devices, for instance, has made viewing the world through images quick, easy and cheap, to the point that, as speakers at the event highlighted, ‘citizen witnesses’ are now disseminating their version of events from the front line online and around the world in less than 60 seconds.

The overall key message in all this is actually a fairly traditional one in an updated context – the importance of having a crisis communications plan in place. We have long said that having a crisis communications plan in place should be an integral part of an organisation’s communications armoury – after all, all crises are to a certain extent predictable. It’s the timing that can throw us.

The digital, rapid, global context we find ourselves in should re-focus that message, and underline just how important having a crisis communications plan in place should be. Ask yourself – is your organisation in a place where it could respond initially to an incident within 15 minutes of it happening (the industry recommendation) and have a program of activity in place, ready to roll out as required. If not, you may need to re-think your approach, or else it’s likely at some point you’ll get caught out on the back foot by the global data sharing machine.

Beyond this fairly sanguine advice, it strikes me that there are some specific lessons here for the international financial services industry too.

One of the fallouts we have seen from the financial crisis is the seeming obsession with wealth and tax, and in particular the mainstream media have taken a very personal approach to publicising (in its truest sense) wealth information – whether it’s the income of senior finance professionals, or the tax planning strategies of public figures and celebrities.

For this treason, the personalisation of wealth should bring home to CEOs, financial advisers and their clients, the need for a renewed look at a wider digital audit. The vast quantities of data available online – though perhaps mundane in isolation (a CEO’s twitter feed, an adviser’s Facebook page etc) – is the saviour of investigative journalists. In fact, some national papers have developed algorithms dedicated specifically to looking through leaked documents (think ICIJ) and public data platforms (including social media). How are you as a firm set up to manage that?

With data sharing across borders becoming increasingly the norm, incessant calls for greater transparency, the potential for data leaks very real indeed, and the GDPR coming into play next year placing a very real focus on data management and compliance, there is a real opportunity here to review the way your organisation not only meets the critical need for having an organisational crisis communications plan in place, but to think too about the wider implications of managing your digital footprint, and that of your employees and staff too. It’s a scary thought, but from a reputational point of view, it’s the reality of the digital world we now live in.

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